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Casino Investors Bullish On Boracay

Casino Investors Bullish On Boracay
Photo taken by The Philippine STAR’s Walter Bollozos shows Bulabog beach during the first day of Boracay Island’s temporary closure for tourists on April 26, 2018.

Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) and business tycoon Andrew Tan are looking forward to proceeding with their planned Boracay casinos after President Duterte changed tack and allowed gambling projects in the world-class island resort.

Galaxy’s local partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC), the listed gaming and amusement gaming company chaired by businessman Eusebio Tanco, said on Thursday, Sept. 2, it has not talked to the Macau-based firm regarding its project but it is ready to resume discussions.

LRWC said it is “looking forward to the resumption of discussions with Galaxy in view of the President’s go-signal for casino operation in Boracay.”

Galaxy Casino had planned to enter the Philippines as early as 2017 and chose LRWC, founded by former Negros Occidental representative Alfredo Benitez, as its local partner.

At the time, Galaxy Casino was reportedly ready to pour in $300 to $500 million to build an integrated casino resort in Boracay.

Galaxy’s planned expansion in the Philippines came on the heels of China’s strict no-smoking policy in casinos and a crackdown back then against corruption in gaming territories like Macau.

Tan, who is also planning to open a casino in its Boracay Newcoast development, is also gearing to proceed with the project.

“We will proceed with our casino project in Boracay Newcoast. We already have several hotels there and we are still building more. There is also a golf course, the only one in the entire Boracay Island. We are very hopeful that the tourism industry in this island will recover fast after the pandemic,” Tan said.

He also said the project would adhere to all government environmental policies.

Saying that the government needs revenues, Duterte has given the go signal to proceed with the casino projects in Boracay.

On Tuesday, Aug. 31, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) said the plans of GEG and Tan’s Megaworld were now approved by the President.

This was a sharp turnaround from his pronouncements in 2018, when he ordered a moratorium on new casinos in the Philippines, saying that he does not like gambling. He had instructed PAGCOR to stop issuing licenses for new casinos, at least until the market can take in new entrants again.

At the time, Duterte rejected GEG’s plan to build a $500 million integrated casino resort in Boracay.

Duterte also said in 2018 that there are enough new land-based casinos proliferating outside the 100-hectare Entertainment City in Parañaque.

“Please forgive me for the contradiction. Now we don’t have money. Wherever we get money, I’ll take it. If that’s from gambling, so be it,” Duterte said on Aug. 26.

“If I were wrong there, yes, I am wrong. If I didn’t stand by my word, yes that’s right, but I need money to run the government because I have a lot to finance,” he added.

Located in Aklan, Boracay was closed for six months in 2018 to undergo renovation after Duterte called it a “cesspool” due to pollution.

Local residents and various groups, including business owners, opposed Duterte’s decision to allow casinos to operate in Boracay.

They warned that casinos would result in a deluge of tourists and cause environmental, health and other concerns especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those opposed to the move also said the island had been generating revenues from tourist visits and casinos would not have any added value to the area famous for its beaches.